What Is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is any device that helps a person with a disability to live more independently.  Persons with disabilities use assistive technology everywhere – at home, at work, at school, in facilities and institutions, for recreation, and elsewhere.
The definition of an assistive technology device is “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”  An assistive technology service is “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.”  Assistive technology services include evaluation, repair, maintenance, adaptation, customization, and training on the use of a device.
Assistive technology does not need to be expensive.  Assistive technology can be as simple as a stick to reach a light switch, a box to stand on, or a shelf attached to a wall at a lower height.  Assistive technology can also be more expensive and complex, such as a power wheelchair or augmentative communication device (speech generating device).  Adaptive equipment in the workplace and lifts on public buses are more examples of assistive technology.
For more information on assistive technology, please go to our brochure called, “Assistive Technology for Persons with Disabilities:  An Overview.”
How Do I Know What Assistive Technology I Need?
You may wish to have an assistive technology evaluation.  The evaluation will determine what your needs are and how assistive technology devices can help you to function more independently in your daily life.  Your local Assistive Technology Resource Center may help you find someone to provide an assistive technology assessment.  Please contact Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology at 800-204-7428 (voice) or 866-268-0579 (TTY) for more information.
For health insurance, a qualified medical professional should evaluate your need for a specific assistive technology device or service.  This person can, for example, include your family doctor, specialist doctor, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech-language pathologist, audiologist, or physiatrist.  Based on the results of the evaluation, your doctor should write a prescription and Letter of Medical Necessity for assistive technology to submit to your health insurance.  Others who provide treatment for you should submit supporting documentation to your health insurance as well.
Other funding sources, as listed below, have different rules for qualifying for assistive technology.  Contact that funding source directly for more information.  Documentation from medical professionals may or may not be needed.
How Do I Pay for Assistive Technology?
The following programs may pay for assistive technology devices or services, if you are eligible for the program:
● Medical Assistance (Medicaid)
● Medicaid Home and Community Based Waivers
● Medicare
● Tricare
● Private Health Insurance
● Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (resources for individuals and for employers)
● School Districts or Intermediate Units
● Pass Program (if you are on SSI)
● Area Agency on Aging
● Telecommunications Device Distribution Program
● Family Savings Account
● ACCESS loan/grant or USDA for home modifications
● Disabled Access Credit for small businesses
● Charities, non-profit organizations, foundations, religious entities, and local businesses
● Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (low-interest loans, mini-grants)
● Recycled Equipment Exchange Program through Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (free or low-cost equipment)
Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology also has a Lending Library, where anyone can borrow a device for free.
Under many of these funding sources, you have the right to make an appeal if you are denied assistive technology.  You should contact an attorney or advocate right away if you are denied.  For more information, please go to our brochure called, “Assistive Technology:  How to Pay for the Device or Service That You Need.” For more information on appealing a denial by Medical Assistance (Medicaid), go to “How to Appeal a Medical Assistance Denial of Assistive Technology.”
What If I Need Help?
If you have questions or need help, please contact the intake system of the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania at 800-692-7443 (voice) or 877-375-7139 (TTY).  Our intake email address is:
More Assistive Technology Resources
[Assistive technology publications]
[Assistive technology and Medicaid/Medicare links]
[Assistive Technology and Employment – Assistive Technology at Work]